Australian Federal Election 2019 – How it was lost

by Jim May 21, 2019

Well another Australian federal election has wrapped up and while most of the country was left reeling at the result, I wasn’t. I wasn’t because once more I placed my faith in Google data that showed a great deal of negativity for Labor, mostly centred on taxes, superannuation and how their policies would hurt you in the hip pocket.

What I learned

  • A supposed Labor landslide was pure speculation
  • I called the result with hours to spare
  • Google Trends once again excels at predictions!
  • Voters care about their money
  • Search volume has sway
  • Google can determine user intent


Hey, welcome back Rankers! You having a good day? I had an interesting weekend. Apparently I called the federal election early. I didn`t know I was calling early because I was just looking at the data. And apparently it was a little bit controversial, because we had a bit of our own sort of Trumpian type opposite you could say. We had someone, apparently he was meant to win and they didn`t. And the other bloke did.

The data doesn’t lie

And so I`m just going to call them red team and blue team today, because politics really makes me sick. But I find the data very interesting. And you might remember I did a show a couple of weeks ago about the federal election, how it was affecting sales.

And at the time I also tweeted out this slide which was just a screenshot from Google Trends, right? And it`s just the last seven days at that time, so from the 24th of April back seven days, showing what people were searching for in relation to the major parties and their leaders.

And I said at the time, `I wonder if the politicians are looking at this,` because one of the things that struck me with certainly the Labor search here or the blue search, I should say in this particular case. Sorry, I`m going to get the blue and red mixed up. It doesn`t matter. They`re all the same. So the blue one, which in this case happens to be Labor, when I put that search in all the related queries were around superannuation tax, superannuation policy. And then there was this one here called `inheritance tax` as well. And it was on the 24th of April. I thought, `Wow. When you compare that to the Liberal Party, there doesn`t seem to be anything there around taxes or negativity.`

You could say the leadership spill was negativity. Certainly some of those other words other people would say are quite negative. But there`s no, I guess, overriding thing like there was with the other search, which is all around finance and super and, `What`s happening to my money?`

Then on Saturday, and I didn`t intend to do this, and I just thought, `Oh, I`ll just screenshot what people are thinking about.` Because if you`ve been following this show for a while, you know that we used Google Trends back in 2016 to predict Trump, right? And then we went back, and I went back through every U.S. election since 2004 and showed the data, how Google Trends would have predicted the outcome of those elections. Okay. So this isn`t new to us. So if you`re struggling to get your head around some of this data, there`s the background to it.

But basically what it means is it`s the volume of people searching for these particular keywords. And this search was done Saturday morning. You can see that it was 11:11. I did it, and it was the last four hours of searches for Liberal and Labour. And this is pure volume of Australia the last four hours. And what you can say there is that the blue line, the blue team, is way ahead of the red team, and that gap widened during the day.

Greater searches are opinions

Now some people have said to me, and I also went through this when I first started looking at this about four or five years ago, was, `Well, hang on. Just because more people are searching for you, does that necessarily mean you`re going to win?` The answer is yes, it does. And we know this because we`ve got presidential elections going back to 2004. We`ve got the 2009 election for Australia, and I did another one since then. I think I`ve done a few of these.

But anyway, what it means is that if your party is leading on the day you`d tend to win in Australia. In America, or it`s if the presidential candidate is leading on the day, they tend to win. But when you see, and even if you don`t agree with how I interpret the data, but even if you look at that there are probably, it was like 20% more people searching for the blue team in this example rather than the red team. Okay? So that means this is election day. They`re at the polls. They`re heading to the polls. Why would you search one team more than another? Chances are that team is going to get more things written down for it at the ballot box.

So, and when I broke it up over the whole country, this was meant to be a big election on climate and things like that, right? So that`s the buzz. All I got from the meeting. I tried to avoid it, but sometimes it leaks through. And you can see there that breakdown of the greens and the blue and the red team that the red team is suffering quite a bit in that graph right there. They`re not getting penetration, and it`s like a brand, right? If your brand isn`t getting penetration …

And I rang into a call-back radio in Melbourne, ABC 774, and I spoke to John Thein who I used to see regularly when I was on ABC. And I said to them, `Why isn`t anyone looking at this?` And I had someone on at the time who was a social media person. I don`t know who they were. I`m sorry I didn`t get your name. But they basically said that, `Oh, Google Trends doesn`t show sentiment.`

Google shows user intent

It`s like; well that`s just a total fundamental misunderstanding of the data. So it`s not that Google Trends is showing the sentiment, but just think of it this way. Google`s advertising products, they were artificial intelligence products, are set up to determine intent of users` search. Okay? So Google can determine the intent of the user search based on artificial intelligence.

What we`re looking at here, we can make certain assumptions based on the nature of the search and when it was done. You can make some fairly logical jumps I would think, such as if you are not getting the most search on the day you`re probably gonna lose, because no one`s looking for you. Pretty simple. Right? The other one is this. I thought that was funny. He`s much hated by the people on the red team and some of the people in the blue team from my understanding as well.

But people were asking if he`s part of their team. No, he`s not. He`s not part of anyone`s team anymore. But this search is, once again, it`s just looking at the phrases related to the different teams. And what Google Trends will allow us to do is find what other queries people who, say, search for the red team are also gonna run a search for.

In this case they`re searching for, `Is Abbott liberal or labour?` And that graph down at the bottom is, once again, you can see that gap widening between the two teams over the course of the day. But this is the one that clinched it for me. So ten to three. At three o`clock I called it with my mate, and I just said, `Nah, it`s over. Blue team`s won.` I said, `I don`t know who was meant to win, but it`s not the red team.`

Because when I looked at this graph and it was, once again, the last four hours and it was saying, what are people more concerned about right now? And that`s what I was looking for. What are they searching for right now in Australia? It`s voting day. This is meant to be an election about the climate and those sorts of things and all sorts of things. But that was one of the major things, right?

And I looked at that and I went, `Hmm, people care way more about tax today, so that`s probably how they`re going to vote.` Right? So that was what I saw. So then I looked back over the last 30 days, and I went, `Oh, okay. People are way more concerned about their hip pocket as we`ve always heard over the years, than they are anything else.` Okay. That always is going to be barely top of mind.

So there it is. There it is in the data. But when I looked at, yeah, red team versus blue team or liberal/labour over the last 30 days, the thing that stood out, and I have not been following this election, right? So I don`t know why these other pollsters and all get it wrong. No idea because the data`s all there. Right? And you can see that anyone who looked at that over the last 30 days and saw all these related queries showing that the red team, major issue, major, major, major, was there, death tax, inheritance tax.

Now, look, I don`t even know if they had those things. They may not. They may be made up. They may be fictional. All I`m saying is what people are searching for, what Australians are searching for, when they looked for the red team was all about death tax and inheritance tax and Coles` opening hours.

Anyway, that`s it for this week`s show, and we will see you next week. Thanks very much, everyone. Bye.

Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.

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